March 21, 2011

Last month at the Governor's Conference on Tourism, Gov. Nikki Haley said to the 450 attendees, "You have a governor who gets it." This is good news to organizations like the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce Visitor & Convention Bureau who are in the trenches working to "get" more visitors to the area.

Local residents and businesses also should be pleased with Haley's remarks, because there is a direct benefit for each of us. How? Tourism provides $700 in annual state tax savings a household in addition to providing a better quality of life.

Communities like ours depend on partnerships with South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism; Lowcountry Resort and Resort Islands Tourism Commission; the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce; and the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce to bring visitors here. We also depend on our businesses and our local governments all working together with a common goal to increase expenditures in the area.

Last year, expenditures on hotels alone in Beaufort County were more than $240 million. Those visitors are driving the revenues for many of our businesses. Those visitors paying for the hotel rooms also are paying sales tax and accommodations and hospitality taxes, which keep property tax lower for residents. The small percentage of funds from the accommodations and hospitality taxes used for tourism marketing reaps enormous benefits for the area.

Haley made a promise at the conference when she said, "I will market South Carolina like you have never seen. I'm going to brag about this state because I love it." Haley noted the competition. Last year, our area saw an increase in visitors in part because of the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Haley is right when she stated, "We need to make sure we don't think of that as last year. We need to make sure they are coming back again this year."

To better serve our businesses, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce moved its offices at the first of the month. Please stop by and visit our staff now located at the Carnegie Building and in The Arsenal. To get a glimpse of what we do to get the visitors to stay in Beaufort, Port Royal and the Sea Islands, be sure to go to the Visitor Center in the old Friends Room of The Arsenal. Our new visitor guide was published this week, and we are so proud of how they showcase Beaufort, Port Royal and the Sea Islands.
On April 14, we will host Business After Hours at The Arsenal and Carnegie to show off our new location. The event is open to the public, and you can find out more at our website,

The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce Visitor & Convention Bureau is going through some in-depth, internal analysis to determine if marketing the area is done better with a separate organization. Whatever the outcome, growing the economy through tourism is critical to the health and viability of the business community and the community at large.
Carlotta Ungaro is president and CEO of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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